‘Words, in all their intimate accents’

  • Tom Paulin


Recently I was looking through a handbook or reader’s guide to Yeats’s poetry — it was full of useful facts, sources and so on — when I came across a curious footnote: ‘For the meaning of this poem see below, page 80.’ Not, ‘for an interpretation’, but ‘for the meaning’. There was something naive, vulnerable, terribly earnest and very dim about that little signpost which directed the reader towards a place called Meaning, and it reminded me of an essay I once read where a critical theorist suggested that it was possible, providing the right critical tools were employed, to discover the ‘actual meaning’ of a poem. Somewhere, he suggested, there was a lost city called Actual Meaning where the structuralist, the Leavisite, the phenomenologist walked hand in hand: they knew the truth, and that truth was single and definite.


Visual Imagery Temporal Movement Direct Speech Personal Emotion Whispering Gallery 
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© Norman Page 1982

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  • Tom Paulin

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